When I was about eight years old, Mom drove me and three other friends from church up to camp for the first time. Two of my friends were twins, and the other was no relation, and the three of them were comparing their stepfathers.
Realizing that I wasn’t joining in the conversation, one of them turned to me. “What about you, Ashley? Your stepdad seems really nice.” My whole family went to the same church, so they knew my parents, whereas they were generally brought by more distant family members or by the church van, so I didn’t know their parents.
“He’s not my stepdad,” I answered, surprised.
“You mean–he’s your real dad?” They looked as surprised as I was.
“You mean–” She dropped her voice and pointed at the driver’s seat. “She’s not your real mom?”
“Yeah, she is.”
“Your parents are still together?!”
We rode in silence for awhile after that. I don’t know who was more shocked, me or them. Even at that age, I knew it really said something when an eight-year-old assumed that EVERYONE’s parents were divorced before the kids were in third grade. Admittedly, these girls were from a slightly lower socioeconomic class, where shortness of funds and other problems were more likely to cause marital friction. But even so, every once in awhile I marvel over that conversation.
PS: My mom told me years later that she always remembered that conversation too, and that she had purposefully bitten her tongue and let us have that learning experience on our own.
PPS: This year, my parents celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary.